I took an unfinished space and turned it into a new room in my home! Follow along for the journey.
If you need a recap on how I got to this point, make sure to check out my post, How I Got Started with DIY, for the back story!
(Before and After!)
Note: If you plan on doing a similar project to this, you will need to do a TON of additional research. This post is meant to show you how I did this project and the steps that were involved. I hope that it empowers you to see that you can also do this! But, don’t use this as the only research you do because it’s only a broad overview.
Step 1: Add a Knee Wall (if necessary)
What is a knee wall? A knee wall is essentially a short wall, typically 3 ft or less, that is added to a sloped ceiling.
Why would you need one? Well, when you have a sloped ceiling, a lot of that space becomes unusable because you’d have to basically crawl to get to it! This cuts the wall short but makes that wall more useable. For example, I ended up placing a dresser against it. If I hadn’t added this wall, there would be random empty space behind the dresser and it would look really funny.
Adding the support for the knee wall is pretty straightforward for most. However, this was the very first time I did anything like this. In fact, it was the first time we used a miter saw. I was so nervous to try it, I made my husband do it for me!
Like most things in home improvement, there are a few different ways to do things. This is how I did it.
- Miter Saw
- Tape measure
- Chalk line
- Wood screws
Step 1: Determine where and how high you want your knee wall to be. Ours ended up being right around 3 feet. Unless you have very specific plans in mind, this doesn’t need to be exact. Most are between 36-42″.
Once you have an idea, determining placement can be kinda tricky, but you definitely want to get it right! I recommend measuring from the straightest wall and making a mark right on the subfloor. Continue at every rafter.
Then, use your chalk line to connect each of these marks into a straight line. Double-check. Then triple-check! Trust me, when you go to install flooring, this will save you a lot of hassle.
Next, take a 2×4 and place it directly on this line. Don’t secure it yet, but this will help you decide how tall your knee wall supports need to be.
When measuring for your supports, you’ll have to keep in mind a few things. This includes the height of the ceiling rafters, the width of your drywall, and the width of the bottom support 2×4.
Some people like to butt the knee wall supports right against the rafters instead of to the side as I did. I don’t think it matters a ton, but this was easier for me to screw them in from the side.
Step 2: Measure and cut your knee wall supports. Once you think you have the length you’d like, I’d recommend cutting one piece first, and dry fitting it to see if this would make sense. The last thing you want is to cut them all down and then realize they’re all too short! Once you’re happy, cut as many supports as there are rafters. Regardless of if you’re going to install them to the side of the rafters, or the front, you’ll want to cut the tops at a 45º angle so that they can fit snugly against the top.
Step 3: Dry fit, and measure where to screw. Next, you’ll want to get everything in place and ready for installation. Once you have everything set, make a mark on the bottom support 2×4 at the center of each knee wall support. This is where you’ll be screwing them in from the bottom. You can see I have little lines in the images above.
Step 4: Install. Take everything down, and begin to screw the supports into the bottom support 2×4. Screw from the bottom, and use a square to make sure they’re going in straight. I recommend doing two screws per support.
Once they’re all in, flip the piece back up and put it in place. Screw the bottom support piece into the subfloor, making sure you’re still in line with your original chalk line. You don’t need a lot here, so every other should be fine.
Finally, you can screw each of the supports into the rafters. Again, I recommend using 2 screws per support so they don’t twist.
Step 2: Framing
This is where things can get tricky, especially when dealing with any weird angles. We had this one particular section above the staircase that was really troublesome. We tried desperately to make some usable space out of it, but ended giving up and built out a wall that completely covered it. This ended up working out anyway because my Ikea PAX System ended up fitting against it.
There was also this weird long crawl space on the other side. It would be pretty unusable if we drywalled the entire space, so we decided to stop it short, and framed it out for a small pass-through door. More on that in a future post!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a lot of photos of this step, and my brother did most of the problem-solving here. I won’t try to describe how to do this, since I really didn’t! There’s a lot of other tutorials out there that are more reliable than I could be.
Step 3: Insulate
This is a sweaty, gross job, but oh so necessary.
- Staple gun
- Utility Knife
- Rafter vents
- Safety glasses
Step 1: Rafter vents. I had never heard of these before doing this, but essentially these help with air circulation against the underside of the roof. These were pretty easy to install and very affordable. The hardest part was the sore palm after shooting so many staples in!
Basically, you just place them between the rafters and staple away until it’s covered! Very simple and this DIY beginner felt like quite the pro afterward!
Step 2: Install insulation. This is where things can get really gross and sweaty. We don’t have any ventilation in the attic, and I have 2 cats that I had to keep out, so I was dripping in sweat by the end of it. The mask and the safety glasses weren’t helping either, but I made it through.
Essentially, you’ll install insulation everywhere that drywall is going to go. It comes in giant rolls, so you’ll measure the length of each section, then take your knife and start cutting away at it. Don’t be precise or pretty here, just start slicing it up! You’ll install these with the paper side out, also using your staple gun. You’ll essentially just put staples up and down the sides until it’s secure, then move on to the next one.
Note: If there are any small or weird crevices, I’d suggest getting a small can of spray foam that you can fill in with.
Again, not difficult, just sweaty!
Step 4: Electrical
We had one overhead light in the space, but my brother explained to me how easy it would be to run his wire to create two outlets. He was right, it was easy and pretty worth it.
However, this is again something he did and there’s no way I could possibly explain this process and feel safe doing so! Consult with an expert for sure.
Step 5: Finally, time for drywall!
Hopefully, that sounds exciting. Because I was excited. But ugh, I wasn’t a fan, haha. Would I do it again? I sure would. But, the struggle was very real.
- Utility Knife
- Drywall bit
- Mud mixer
- Tape Measurer
- Chalk line
- Drywall rasp
Step 1: Measure. Decide where you want to start, and measure how big the piece of drywall should be. There will be some spots that can take a full piece of drywall, but most pieces will need to be cut.
A very important detail here is that you want to measure the distance between the midpoint of each stud. Every single border of the drywall needs to be attached to a stud. This means, that when you install a single sheet, it will cover half of your stud, and the adjacent piece will cover the other half.
(This is my very high-end depiction of what I’m talking about, haha. Does this make sense?!)
If possible, hold the drywall directly onto the wall it’s going, and make your marks. This will make things easier!
Next, you’ll use your chalk line on the drywall to create a straight line between your marks, which is where you’ll cut.
Step 2: Cut. Use your utility knife to score the line you made with your chalk. If you have a drywall t-square, use it. We didn’t, and I wish I would’ve just forked over the $15 or so because it would’ve been quicker and cleaner!
Once you’ve scored it, you can just bend the drywall and snap it. Then, just score the paper and it should come apart pretty easily.
Step 3: Smooth edges. Use your drywall rasp, which is essentially a type of hand sander to smooth down all the sides to make it nice and smooth.
Step 4: Screw it in! Use your drywall bit and screws to begin screwing it into the studs. Make sure the edges are lined up on the middle of a stud to allow the next piece to also use that same stud. The bit will allow for a slight indentation so that when you mud over the screw head, it’ll be completely flat and you won’t even notice it anymore.
Step 5: Tape. There are two options for the type of tape here. We opted for mesh tape which was an easier install, but a little more difficult to cover with mud later on.
This step is pretty straightforward. Tape over all your joints! If you use the paper tape, you’ll apply mud underneath it and smooth it out as you go. It’s a little more cumbersome upfront, but it works out in the end.
(I used two different color tapes here, a white and a grey. Neither was preferable, it was just basically what I could find in the store!)
Step 6: Corner Bead. This is basically a piece of plastic that makes sure your outside corners are smooth. It’s relatively easy to install and you can attach it with either mud or spray adhesive. I used the spray adhesive, which was ok, but it gets pretty sticky!
Step 7: Mud, Wait, Sand, Repeat. When I started this step, my brother told me that drywall mudding is an art form, and some people have it and some people don’t. I definitely fell in the second category here and really struggled with this. Looking back, I think I was being too stingy with my mud and over smoothing it with each pass.
Essentially what you’ll do is go over all your seams/tape, corners, and screws with mud to create a smooth surface. On the edges of the drywall where you didn’t cut, there’s a small indentation to compensate for the mud that will go there so the end result will be smooth.
The first layer will be the thinnest, at roughly 6 inches wide. Then, you’ll wait 24 hours for that to dry and then go over everything and sand it smooth.
Then, you’ll wipe all the sanding dust down, and do the second layer, which is roughly 8 inches wide. Then wait, sand, and clean. The third layer is the widest at about 10 inches. You guessed it. Apply, wait, sand, clean.
It’s a bit tedious and quite messy. Even though it was really tough, physically and mentally, it isn’t on my list of “never doing that again” so that’s a plus!
Once you’ve finished, the unfinished space will actually look like a real-life room! Hopefully, that motivates you to keep going, because the fun stuff is definitely next!